I’m interviewing Sophie Weeks today, author of YA/NA novel “The Soured Earth”. Based on the interview, Sophie sounds like a great person, and I wish I had time to read her book.
1. How long have you been writing?
I think I really started writing in high school. I couldn’t stop scribbling weird scenes and scraps of dialogue and character sketches. It was often inspired by historical figures, books I was reading, and any stray scrap of pop culture that floated across my field of awareness. I believe I am probably the only author who cut their teeth writing M*A*S*H fanfiction. Writing in some form is how I’ve always explored my thoughts and feelings.
2. Is The Soured Earth your first book? If not, please tell us a little about your first book.
My first published book is called Outside the Spotlight (http://www.amazon.com/Outside-Spotlight-Sophie-Weeks-ebook/dp/B00BUUPYVO). It’s a fun literary fantasy and mystery in the spirit of Jasper Fforde and Pirandello. The setting is the world of culture and literature, where books are born, elves are everyday people, and imaginary characters live out their comfortable, seemingly immortal lives. My heroine, Isabella, is a milkmaid from a French Renaissance Christmas carol who longs to explore the wider world and find passion and excitement in a mystery. She meets up with Sherlock Holmes, and together they’re drawn into exploring a “real” mystery that threatens the very assumptions that underpin their existence.
3) Why did you choose young adult as genre for your book?
I feel like young adult is actually an extremely flexible genre. Younger readers, and adults who enjoy the books written for them, tend to be more interested in the kind of family drama that I’ve created here. There’s a tendency to assume that millennials and the generation that follows them are this cossetted, narcissistic cohort with helicopter parents and no strong sense of responsibility. But that’s the New York Times opinion piece type reality. I spent many years teaching junior college, working with students for whom that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of my best students were young people taking on amazing responsibilities in addition to their education. They were raising younger siblings, negotiating elder care, or raising their own young families while holding down a full-time job and taking classes. So I think any assumption that young adults, or the literature written for them, are concerned only with finding a date and dealing with mean girls is ridiculous. Young adults are citizens of this world, with a unique perspective on its challenges.
4) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I guess any advice I have would be primarily iconoclastic in nature. If you’re curious about writing, it’s natural to read books about craft and books telling you how to be successful as a writer. That’s fine, read them all, but don’t take anything as gospel. One of the most reassuring things I was ever told was this: Mickey Spillane used to feed enormous sheets of butcher paper into his typewriter, work straight through, slash it up with scissors, and send it to his editor in a big box. That was how he worked. So whatever you have to do to make words appear on a page, do that. Treat anything else as a suggestion.
5. Do you have any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?
I currently have two manuscripts, “both alike in dignity” that have competing claims on my time. One is a new adult book about a young girl who sets off blindly in search of “real magic.” It’s a modern fairy tale, a quest narrative that takes its heroine into a dark world of remote locations and secret societies as she struggles to make meaning in a prosaic reality. The other is a larger, young adult fantasy project that I’m trying to be particularly cautious with. It gives me a chance to do a lot of enjoyable world-building as I invent geographies and religions and history.
1. Dark chocolate or white chocolate?
I’m not sure “white chocolate” technically deserves the name of chocolate. Ew.
2. Red wine or white wine?
White wine, unless there’s dark chocolate. Then red wine is de rigeur.
3. What’s your least favorite thing to do?
Scoop out the litterbox.
4. If you were given a yacht, what would you name it?
The True Love as a nostalgic nod to the great classic musical High Society.
5. If you had a mutant superpower, what would it be?
Flight. Boring but true. Some people stop having flying dreams as they get older—being able to defy gravity is my favorite way to pass time in my sleep.
6. Biggest pet peeve?
Any form of snobbery in which I’m not currently actively engaged.
7. What would you do if you were the last person on Earth?
Hmm. Work really hard on my garden and build a large fence to keep out the roving population of starving household pets who now have a taste for human flesh.
8. If you were a genie, which wish would you absolutely not grant?
Anything that would take away another person’s free will.
9. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Okay, let’s just end this debate for all time. Long ago, something that was genetically almost-but-not-quite a chicken had congress with almost-but-not-quite a rooster. In the egg that resulted, a minor genetic mutation resulted in a chicken. There. Done.
10. Why did the chicken cross the road?
Chickens are kind of dumb. We had a lot of them when I was a kid, and I’d wager they’d gladly wander all over a six-lane highway if you let them.
11. If you could hang out with any historical figure, past or present, who would it be and why?
Assuming we have a babel fish (because my Latin is pretty rudimentary and largely forgotten), I think Julius Caesar and I would have a really swell time together. I’d love to get advice from his brilliant tactical mind (and maybe warn him that the Emperor gig will end badly).
12. What’s your power animal?
There’s an albino skunk who lives on our lot. This sounds very prosaic, but he’s only rarely seen, and very magical looking in the moonlight. I feel like he might be a visiting spirit animal.
13. What are your top 3 “rules to live by”?
“Every cripple finds his own way of walking.” “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” “I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” (The last is courtesy of Edith Cavell, a brave British nurse in World War I. Her life, and death, are an inspiration.)
14. Which actress would play you in a movie about your life?
I was once intensely flattered by a comparison to Drew Barrymore. Assuming undue realism isn’t the goal, I’d love to see my idiosyncrasies transformed by Barrymore’s energy
15. What’s the punctuation mark that best describes your personality?
The Soured Earth
Author: Sophie Weeks
When Margaret Campbell left her home, a working ranch in the Canada prairies, for the East coast and college, she never meant to come back. In the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the lives of her aunt and uncle, however, Margaret is called home to help. There she must assume a much less glamorous role as chef, gardener, and mother figure for her orphaned cousins.
But when a strange sickness strikes their cattle and blights their crops, Margaret’s family is threatened with the loss of their ranch and only livelihood. Now caught in the middle of a full-scale environmental disaster, Margaret finds herself divided between duty to home and family and the fashion designer career she’s still struggling to build.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Sophie Weeks received a Masters degree in English Literature from Mills College in 2006 and completed her PhD in Victorian Literature at Rice University in 2013. Sophie resides in Payson, Arizona with three furry miscreants, who are wanted in multiple states for criminal adorableness. She is also the author of Outside the Spotlight and Unsettled Spirits.
Buy a copy of “The Soured Earth”:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-soured-earth-sophie-weeks/1117555168
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